NY Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, elected in the 2010 GOP wave with strong tea party support, does not like Gov. Cuomo's new gun safety law one bit.
McLaughlin, who represents most of Rensselaer and part of Washington and Columbia counties (east of Albany), knows a rabble-rousing issue when he sees one. He spoke at the gun rights rally outside the Capitol last month, at the state Conservative Party confab two weeks ago, and has been all over local talk radio lately.
This morning, he joined other GOP Assemblymembers at a press conference to decry Cuomo's use of a message of necessity (an executive power that requires an essentially immediate vote on a bill) for the NY SAFE Act.
McLaughlin called that dictatorial, and when questioned about "dictatorial," went Godwin-plus:
A few hours later, he apologized.
He must have thought he was at a tea party/gun nut/GOP base gathering with no cameras or reporters allowed.
For those who can't see the video, here's what McLaughlin said about Cuomo:
When you throw a bill at us in 20 minutes, and the Senate had for 20 minutes, we couldn't get the bill printed.A Capitol reporter offered McLaughlin a chance to pull his foot out of his mouth, but he doubled down with Putin:
We had been there since 9 a.m., it's now 11 at night and we're told basically to shut up and vote, and that's what this is all about. Just don't question it, just vote. That's basically the message here.
If that's not dictatorial, I don't know what is.
Hitler would be proud, Mussolini would be proud of what we did here, Moscow would be proud, but that's not democracy.
So I don't even know how you question whether that's not dictatorial or not, that's absolutely dictatorial -- to send a message down and the only thing necessary was to ram it through so that the people of New York didn't get a chance to see it.
R: What about your comments referring to the governor as Hitler and Mussolini, do you feel that's an appropriate thing to say?About four hours later, McLaughlin did a mea maxima culpa:
M: I said it was Mussolini-like. I said they'd be proud of what went on.
R: They'd be proud of what he did.
R: Hitler would be proud, that a message of necessity ...
M: He's acting like a dictator in my opinion.
R: You feel that's an appropriate thing to say about the governor?
M: I just said it.
R: How is that Hitler-like?
M: How does Putin act over in Russia? Same thing, dictate to the Legislature what they're gonna do, they're rubber-stamping it.
I'm not calling the governor a dictator. I'm saying that this was a dictatorial thing to do.
“I’m very, very, sorry about that,” McLaughlin, R-Schaghticoke, said in a video statement. “I apologize to the governor and to all of you for doing that. It was the wrong analogy to make.”McLaughlin's major mistake was forgetting who the audience was.
McLaughlin said his statement was made “in the heat of the moment” and was an “honest mistake.”
Had he gone Godwin-plus at the gun rally, he would have been applauded, guaranteed. The dozens of attendees wearing yellow stars at the rally would have cheered the loudest.
But the far-right Republican base is not the audience of a Tuesday morning press conference in the Capitol -- the only people there besides the pols and their staffers are the press.
Their ears perk up when they hear "dictatorial" and "Hitler," and they ask basic follow-up questions.
Which helped McLaughlin did the hole deeper.
To judge by local talk radio, McLaughlin's apology was a mistake.
Afternoon WGDJ-AM host Melody Burns (who emceed the gun rally) said he had "shot himself in the foot," because as everyone who listens to wingnut radio knows Cuomo is a king, dictator, Hitler, etc. All her few daily callers agreed.
Once upon a time, the tea party was all about fiscal prudence and small government.
But, in our non-fairy-tale world, tea party types are far-right Republicans who angrily support almost everything on the far-right Republican agenda -- opposing marriage equality, reproductive rights, gun safety, Agenda 21, the New World Order, Obama/Hitler/Stalin, ad nauseam.
McLaughlin is a tea party political rookie who barely won re-election last year, thanks to some six figures of support from state Republican committees (a couple three mailings a week for two months).
After what he did today, he'll need that and more to survive next year.